WASHINGTON ― Tucked near the bottom of President Donald Trump’s new executive order on refugees and travel from six Muslim-majority nations is a striking little request.
In Section 11, Trump orders the Department of Homeland Security to collect and start publishing certain information about foreign nationals. Among other data, the president would like Homeland Security to provide America with “information regarding the number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including so-called ‘honor killings,’ in the United States by foreign nationals.”
But Trump’s order suggests the real problem is a much smaller group of villains: foreign Muslims.
The idea that Islam encourages violence against women has been a favorite claim of the Islamophobia industry for years. Just last week, a Republican lawmaker in Oklahoma targeted Muslim constituents with a questionnaire that asked whether they beat their wives. John Bennett, a state representative who had previously suggested that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should face a firing squad, said that his questions were “based on passages from the Quran and other Islamic texts.”
When people choose to spread fear about Muslim crime ― and imply that coming from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen, the primarily Muslim countries targeted by Trump’s ban, makes one prone to committing gender-based violence ― the intent is clear.
“The specter of vulnerable (usually white) women threatened by brutish brown men is a very old justification for racist discrimination,” feminist writer Jill Filipovic wrote on Twitter after seeing the revised order. Allegations that black men have likely raped white women have an especially deadly history in the U.S.
“If only he was interested in all violence against women in US, not just acts by foreigners,” Barr tweeted. “But that would require reporting himself.”
Those hoping to spread fears about Muslims are happy to go beyond gender violence claims. The far-right has similarly tried to tie bias against LGBTQ people specifically to Islam.
By mixing true statements about the problems that women, LGBTQ individuals and others face in the Muslim-majority world with lies about Islamic teachings and practice, Trump and his nationalist counterparts abroad posture as defenders of Western equality. (They neatly forget to mention their own parties’ records on gender and LGBTQ equality.)
Commentators have challenged this anti-Muslim narrative too. Trump’s argument is “a cynical exploitation of the vulnerability of one group in order to marginalize another vulnerable group,” New York University professor Regina Rini wrote in the Los Angeles Times last summer.
The viewpoint reflected in Trump’s new executive order is the same one that has inspired legislation
Trump’s revised ban will face the scrutiny of courts that will ask whether it’s driven by anti-Muslim animus. (Or whether it fulfills a national security imperative, an argument that looks weaker by the day.)
Some of the judges who ruled against the original order cited Trump’s calls for a “Muslim ban” and his aides’ talk about designing one. Even after the unfavorable rulings, the president’s team continued to damage its case by discussing the larger goal of reducing the Muslim population in the U.S.
Now the very language of Trump’s new order could prove once again that, yes, it’s about Muslims.
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